Thursday, January 26, 2017

Everybody Calm Down About Tilda Swinton, or Thoughts on Doctor Strange

Do we really need another origin story?  And what value do they have when Marvel will reboot the franchise every 10 years?  How many times do we need to see Thomas and Martha Wayne get murdered, or in Doctor Strange (2016) Benedict Cumberbatch doing his best Robert Downey Jr./Tony Stark impression as the rich douche bag who loses everything only to gain a larger, more selfless perspective and go on to dedicate his life to fighting bad guys and saving the world.  Can’t we just jump into the story like it’s a James Bond movie and assume the viewer will keep up?
With Matrix-y fight scenes in an Inception (2010) world (which was the original title of this post) and fighting with Hellraiser  (1987) fire squares, Doctor Strange is visually stunning.  However, watching these sorcerers reform the world like so many 3-D puzzle pieces may be initially impressive but it’s ultimately impotent, it's a green screen, these actors are staring at nothing.  And yes, I do understand that there are these things called backdrops that have existed ever since theater was invented but those were painted canvases that everyone could see: the audience, the actors, and the camera.  I suppose it was more of a shared experience.   But now as movies and video games start to blend it doesn't seem as relevant to a modern audience.
Which brings us to the actual title of this post. 
Tilda Swinton is perfectly adequate as The Ancient One, and that’s speaking as your friendly Asian-American movie blogger.  She’s ethereal, timeless, androgynous, elven and mysterious, all aspects that one would require as a master of the mystic arts.  She didn’t change her English accent, or squint, or do anything even remotely Asian except for her fighting style and wardrobe.  And nobody’s complaining about Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagall for appropriating Asian martial arts.  One could easily argue that the original depiction of the Ancient One in 1963 is far more stereotypical, he looks like Ming the Merciless. 
She’s no Joel Grey in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985, and the adventure did not begin), or John Wayne as Genghis Kahn or the gold standard of horrible Asian stereotypes, Mickey Rooney's Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, side note: I actually met Mickey Rooney at a book signing, it seemed disrespectful to bring it up that particular performance, he was already 90 and near the end of his life.  And besides, he was married to Ava Gardner).
And what about Chiwetel Ejiofor, who you may remember as The Operative in Serenity (2005) as Karl Mordo, the random black guy in Nepal?  Why isn’t that an issue?  And speaking of Nepal, why is this movie set on the Nepalese side of Everest, rather than the Tibetan side?  Could it have something to do with China not acknowledging Tibet as a sovereign state and Disney needing that precious Chinese distribution?  If you continue to poke and complain at your toys they’ll fall apart and you won’t be able to play with them.  Is that what you want?  I didn’t think so, so just enjoy Doctor Strange for what it is, a grown-up American Harry Potter with Sherlock Holmes (another title for this post).
Watch out for Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius, the enemy sorcerer, he had a great year between this movie and his portrayal of Galen Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016).

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).